The Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking, which is operated jointly by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders, spent a rainy Sunday searching open waters for a fragile rubber boat overloaded with migrants before finally plucking 50 people to safety not far off Libya’s coast.
The Ocean Viking, which was already in the Libyan search and rescue zone of the central Mediterranean, received an email by Alarm Phone, a hotline for migrants. It was an urgent call seeking help for the rubber boat carrying 50 people without a working engine. Throughout the morning, the ship tried to contact Libyan officials without success.
At 2:30 p.m., the Libyan Coastguard finally answered the phone and the Ocean Viking reported that its crew was in the process of rescuing the migrants. As required by maritime law, the ship asked Libyan authorities responsible for rescue coordination in that part of the Mediterranean to provide a place of safety to disembark the rescued migrants, but it also made the same request to Italian and Maltese officials. There was no immediate response.
International migration and human rights bodies say Libya is not a place of safety, and Doctors Without Borders does not consider any North African country safe for disembarkation of the migrants.